John the Baptist came from the desert crying out to the people, calling them to a moment of “metanoia”...literally “a moment turning around”. And “at that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins”.
They came to repent and be baptized, to begin again with God, to prepare the way of the Lord! To ready themselves for an encounter with the Christ, and an encounter with God in the flesh -- the Incarnation!
The Voice of John the Baptist cries out to us in the midst of the rush and chaos of the Advent season, calling us to a conversion of heart. He announces the breaking forth of the Reign of God in our very midst. But can we hear him amid the cacophony and the clamor of our busy and overscheduled lives? I am afraid not...not unless we are willing to step back, to sit down and to spend a moment reflecting on our lives and our relationships. Our relationships with family and friends, with coworkers and classmates, with neighbors and our relationships with migrants and immigrants. We need to reflect on our relationships with the homeless and the hungry, and with all those on the margins of society: the unseen, the ones who are “Other” than us because of the color of their skin, their gender, who they love, where they were born. We need to make time this Advent to reflect on our relationships with how we view and treat “Others” who are the beloved of God...just as you are the beloved of God whether or not you believe it, whether or not you accept it, it is your core identity. Embrace it this Advent, embrace being the beloved of God, just as your are! It will change your life.
We need to ask ourselves if we are “living out of this identity, as the beloved of God”? In the Scriptures for this Sunday Isaiah speaks of a new time for the people of Israel -- a time of great hope, a new reign that is breaking forth.
In this new world, mercy and justice will flourish and the wicked and unjust ones will be banished forever. But as we look around it seems as if we are a long way off from the “peaceable kingdom”. Wars rage and political unrest swirl around us like the biting winds of a cold December night.
Millions of our sisters and brothers desperately seek refuge, with no home in sight. Terrorists strike the innocent and fill us with fear...it all seems so bleak.
Where is the Reign of God bursting forth? It is waiting to burst forth from within each one of us! The Reign of God burst forth every time we respond to a person in need or pain or a hurtful or harmful situation in a Christ-like manner.
Are we brave enough to “turn around” to answer the call of John the Baptist...to allow the love of God to soften our hearts and enlighten our minds? As Christians are we willing to really “live” the Reign of God through our daily actions? What would that look like...what would I have to change or continue to do in my life for me to be a living sign to others of their identity as the beloved of God, just the way they are, and in doing so show them the bursting forth of the Reign of God in the midst of a hurting and fearful world?
And in doing so...“prepare the way of the Lord”!